- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sen. Larry E. Craig yesterday defiantly vowed to serve out his term in office despite losing a court attempt to rescind his guilty plea in a men’s room sex sting.

“I have seen that it is possible for me to work here effectively,” the Idaho Republican said in a statement certain to disappoint fellow party members who have urged him to step down.

Mr. Craig earlier announced he would resign his seat by Sept. 30, but wavered when he went to court in hopes of withdrawing his plea.

The third-term lawmaker issued his statement not long after Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter relayed word that he had selected a replacement for Mr. Craig in the event of a resignation.

“He is ready to act should we receive a letter of resignation,” said Jon Hanian, Mr. Otter’s spokesman in Boise, in what seemed like a calculated signal that home-state Republicans want Mr. Craig to surrender the seat he has held for 17 years.

Mr. Craig said he will not run for a new term next year.

But in the meantime, he said, “I will continue my effort to clear my name in the Senate ethics committee — something that is not possible if I am not serving in the Senate.”

The ethics committee has signaled that it is reviewing the facts of Mr. Craig’s case, after the Senate Republican leadership requested it.

Mr. Craig’s decision to stay and fight raises the prospect of public hearings — virtually certain to be televised live — centered on the issue of homosexual sex.

When the charges first surfaced, Mr. Craig said he would resign by Sept. 30. But then he attempted to withdraw a written guilty plea in August to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. He said he would stay in office at least until a judge ruled on that bid.

“Because the defendant’s plea was accurate, voluntary and intelligent, and because the conviction is supported by the evidence … the defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea is denied,” Hennepin County Judge Charles Porter wrote.

Mr. Craig’s attorney, Billy Martin, said his client was considering whether to appeal the ruling.

“We are, of course, disappointed with the ruling issued today,” Mr. Martin said. “Senator Larry Craig maintains that he is innocent and there is insufficient evidence to support a finding that he is guilty. Thus, we renew our arguments that it is manifestly unjust to deny Senator Craig’s request to withdraw his guilty plea. Senator Craig continues his steadfast denial that any inappropriate behavior took place at the airport.”

Mr. Craig shocked the Senate in late August when it was disclosed that he had quietly pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct after being arrested by an undercover police officer.

The officer said Mr. Craig exhibited behavior consistent with seeking a sexual encounter in a men’s room at the Minneapolis airport.

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